Russia: Slow Boat To Somalia



October 9, 2008: Russian diplomats are pushing the idea that the Russian invasion of Georgia last August was a reaction to another American attempt to extend its power. Russia is trying to sell the idea that the United States is bent on world domination, and that Russia is one of the few nations determined to stop America. This line is popular inside Russia, somewhat less so outside Russia, where it tends to be perplexing. Many outside Russia are anti-American, but not to the degree the Russians are.

In support of the governments fears (about American power) the armed forces have been ordered to design and build missile defenses and organize the armed forces so that they are on high alert 24/7. All this is mainly for propaganda. The military can barely maintain its nuclear forces, and most of the conventional forces are poorly maintained and trained. Attempts to change this are remarkable only for how much decline they reveal. For example, the air force recently announced the first full test of cruise missiles, fired from heavy bombers, since 1984. This is where a heavy bomber, like the Tu-160, fires off all the missiles it can carry (12) to make sure that it can. This hasn't been done in 24 years because the missiles cost several million dollars each, and the generals did not want to risk the backlash from something going wrong. But there are a lot of other types of military exercises that have not been conducted since the end of the Cold War in 1991. Russia may be pouring billions into rebuilding the military, but it will be a decade or more before the troops are a threat to anyone.

The governments takeover of the nationwide mass media in the last few years has worked. That is, public opinion is now successfully manipulated to conform to government interests. Thus Georgia and the United States are, according to the latest opinion surveys, very unpopular (67 percent negative for the U.S., 75 percent for Georgia). Despite the presence of the Internet and smaller, independent, media, the government is able to mould public opinion via efficient use of the mass media (mainly television news).

The Somali government, such as it is, has given Russia permission to use force against Somali pirates holding a Ukrainian ship (the SS Faina) loaded with weapons. The frigate Neustrashimy left its Baltic sea base in late September (a day before the Faina was taken) for anti-piracy duty off Somalia. The Neustrashimy is due to stop at Tripoli, Libya, on October 11th, for a two day visit (and replenish its fuel and food supplies). It appears that the Neustrashimy won't show up off Somalia until mid October, at the earliest. The Neustrashimy is being accompanied to Libya by the nuclear powered battle cruiser Peter the Great (which will head for Venezuela after the Libya visit).

The government has accused Ukraine of criminal acts in supplying Georgia with weapons. This is part of a diplomatic effort to improve relations with Ukraine.

In the south Caucasus, above average violence continues in Chechnya, and neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan. All three provinces are run by corrupt officials, who stay in power by catering to their cronies and screwing everyone else. This has led to violence.

October 8, 2008: As promised, Russia withdrew its troops from inside Georgia, where they were manning checkpoints. Russian troops still occupy two small areas (one near South Ossetia and the other near Abkhazia) which are disputed.

October 3, 2008: In South Ossetia, Russian troops stopped a car carrying four Georgians. As they searched the car, they found weapons. But then the car exploded, killing eight Russian soldiers and three civilians,  and wounding another eight soldiers. One of the dead was a colonel, whose office was next to where the car was parked. Russia blamed the Georgian government for this.

September 30, 2008: Russia has agreed to sell India four 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plants. Back home, Russia plans to build 26 new nuclear power plants over the next twelve years.

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